Really I am amazed how much budgets can vary depending on what you buy and where you buy it. I've read blogs and various stuff from people who live on a whole foods diet cheaply and it is amazing. Most of the stuff I've read is from vegans (since that is the diet I follow), some with very restricted budgets ($20/week per person, etc).
So I thought it'd be nice to share our own tips with eachother
1) My CSA - I just joined one this year. I can't believe already how much food I'm getting each week. For an average of $25/week, I get lots of organic veggies and some fruit.
2) Ethnic (Asian/Indian) markets - Prices are amazing. 20 lb bag of brown rice for $5, large bags of spices for a couple bucks, veggies/fruits very cheap, etc. I can walk out with 4-5 big grocery bags for around $20.
3) Costco. Actually I will say a Costco membership is a bit of a splurge but for me, it is the cheapest auto insurance I could find so I would keep it even if I didn't shop there. There are certain items I buy there that I find cheaper than anywhere else.
4) Trader Joes - Basics usually aren't the cheapest here but for somewhat prepared products, they are cheaper than the average grocery store.
5) Co-ops - I've actually never been to one but I have heard they are great for certain things, like bulk products.
6) Whole Foods - a store I have a love/hate relationship with but they do generally have a good bulk section, they sometimes have a few items on sale that are really good, they have a large amount of (partially) prepared products. Also it fills my occasional veggie sushi urge for cheaper than a japanese restaurant.
7) Grow your own - I have started sprouting which is amazing but I tried my hand at growing veggies last year and it really wasn't what I'd call cost effective but was fun. I don't have a green thumb though.
05-20-2008, 02:16 PM
I hardly spend any money at all in the summer because of the farmers markets. I grow some herbs at home so that really saves.
05-20-2008, 02:29 PM
1. Local produce, wherever you can find it. This includes CSAs, farmer's markets, and produce stands. I spend an average of 30-40 dollars a week on produce, and that is a LOT of produce (those who know my menus know how many veggies I go through...ridiculous!).
2. Buy staples in bulk. I buy my chicken broth at Costco, since I go through so much of it. Come to think of it, Costco is good for veggies, too...cheaper than the grocery store, though not as cheap as the local, in season options.
3. Find cheap sources for your staple foods. I know that TJs has the cheapest marinara sauce, and I love it, either plain or jazzed up with other ingredients. Their whole grains are cheaper, too.
4. Buy in season!!!! The stuff will taste better, and you'll save a ton.
05-20-2008, 06:05 PM
1. I agree that gardening is one of our biggest savers during summer months - I get lucky and get canned beans and tomatoes from dad that lasts through some of winter. We grow tomatoes (which are so expensive to buy), cukes, peppers, watermelon, zuchinni, yellow squash, basil, rosemary, lemon thyme, sage, more herbs.
2. Another thing I eat a ton of which is quite cheap is EGGS. I know that wouldn't work for a vegan like Nelie, but it's one of my main protein sources.
05-20-2008, 06:36 PM
One thing I did forget to mention is meat is expensive but whole grains, legumes and such are very cheap. You can get a lb of beans for pennies if you cook them yourself. There are psuedo grains that are complete proteins and you can buy them in bulk very cheaply and they can come under $1 for a lb. My local asian market sells big tubs of tofu for $3. I generally buy the organic small container (which is 1lb) for 99 cents since I rarely eat tofu. Even veggies are cheap compared to meat and I know people complain about the price of veggies but won't blink an eye at spending more per lb on meat.
05-20-2008, 06:56 PM
To add onto Nelie's suggestion, if you do eat meat, make it less of a central focus...use a little bit in a stirfry or pasta, rather than putting a big portion at the center of your plate.
And with the money you'll save by eating less, you might be able to "upgrade" to fresh meats being sold by a local purveyor (my favorite meat guy comes to the farmer's market, and usually only costs a dollar or so a lb more than my grocery store, but the meat is incredible...grass-fed, free-range, totally organic, and amazingly delicious).
05-20-2008, 07:32 PM
I always check the 'reduced' section in the produce dept. Just tonight I got 1.5 pounds of grapes for 1.25, 8 pc. squash combo for .79 and a couple of just-right bananas for .25........ Only downfall is using asap... no prob with that here... I watch sales for chicken, divide portions and wrap in the old-fashioned freezer wrap.... Lots of coupons out there too... I've started using them again. Some major chains are giving an extra 20-25 dollars when you purchase a 100 dollar gift cert.....
05-20-2008, 08:08 PM
I have to second Amanda's suggestion of buying in season. Produce is WAY cheaper when it's in season. Case in point... I made the mistake of buying cherries during an off-peak time of year (without checking the price) and ended up paying almost ten bucks for the bunch. But now the same amount would set me back only a couple of dollars. Definitely find out when items are in season (or better, on peak!) and buy them then. It will save you lots.
05-21-2008, 12:39 AM
I agree with this statement. I eat very cheaply and am getting healthier! I eat lots of oats, beans and homemade items (yogurt, cheese and now sprouts!) Breads I buy from outlet stores or the reduced shelf. Veggies and fruits I buy in season or on the reduced shelf and meats I eat very rarely now and buy on sale in bulk. For snacky times of items I combine sales with coupons and get them for cents not dollars!
05-21-2008, 01:12 AM
I grow my own, lettuce, parsley, baisl and chives. I live in an apartment and am not a big gardener. But theese are easy to grow. since i eat these almost every day it saves me about $20 a week
05-21-2008, 06:51 PM
I live in an apartment, I grow some herbs... There is a local Co-operative grocery store here.. Their produce is a bit cheaper than other stores, or the same price and I'd rather buy their stuff...
When it comes to meat... I buy it when we need it or on sale.... lately I've been feeding us more fish than meat... Write now we have no chicken in the freezer, but we've been fine for weeks without it. I've decided that I don't buy more meat or fish until I'm out of it and its on sale..
And I've been loving the bulk section at the Co-op... they have grains, beans, seeds, nuts, noodles, rice, popcorn all in bulk... AWESOME!!!
I make our own breakfast cereal bars (whole grain cereal, sunflower and flax seeds, agave nectar, Peanut butter, tahini, oat meal, and quinoa) They taste yummy and cheap to make :D
And I've been trying to stick to homemade. I haven't made any bread in a while, I should.. it'll be whole grain :)
For us our shopping list has increased, but before we didn't eat very regularly, maybe a meal a day... So we have increased our food budget, but I'm sure its a lot less than if we were getting only junky things into the diet ICK!!! :P
06-10-2008, 04:24 PM
We grow tomatoes (which are so expensive to buy
And they tast soooo much better to! :) We grow a lot of stuff in the summer: lettuce, spinach, chard, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, tomatos, green beans. Plus we have rhubarb, currents, strawberries and raspberries in our garden area. There's a local organic farm about 1 mile up the road that sells stuff at all the local farmer's markets, but also out of their garage every Friday evening. Right now it's just greens and radishes, but soon there will be lots of good stuff! :) In the summer it's a no brainer to buy local produce here. Everything else is shipped in and expensive! We have to buy that stuff all winter if we want "fresh" (which is relative!) so I really try to buy as much local in the summer as we can handle. I do freeze veggies and fruits to have in the winter, too.
06-16-2008, 06:54 PM
The Farmer's Market, Costco and Trader Joe's are big money savers for us. I know where I can get particular items cheapest and plan our menus/shopping around that.
07-28-2008, 11:00 AM
Great ideas. I buy 80% of our groceries at costco. I go there every 7-14 days for groceries, and I usually spend $150-ish on food for a family of 5 (we only eat out once ever 2 weeks or so). Once a week, I'll got to a grocery store to fill in between my costco runs... more milk, bread, produce. WHenever I go into teh grocery store, I'll pick up whatever produce the store is promoting on sale that week.
I've pretty much stopped buying red meat b/c of the cost and higher fat/calories. We have been eating chicken for most dinners, but I'm serving smaller portions.
I try to buy produce that is less than $1 per lb... that's usually my guage of it's a great deal on not. I can usually find inseason apples, pears, peaches, kiwi, mangos, pineapple, grapes, oranges at that price. Bananas and melons are always less than $1 per lb, which makes them a good value for us. I iwll pay $2+ per lb for berries and grape tomatoes (we love them and they are so good for us!)
07-28-2008, 04:03 PM
Well, I think my main money saving tip is to make sure you paln your menus down to snacks and beverages while you're looking at the sales ads. Then stick to it.
08-18-2008, 09:28 AM
What about food preservation? At this time of year, you can get BUSHELS of farmer's market veggies for very little money. I can tomatoes, freeze bell peppers, dehydrate some fruits... It's really not as difficult as some people seem to think it is!
08-18-2008, 12:36 PM
Our apartment is super tiny, and I still do a bit of food preserving. I don't can, because we don't have the space, but I usually do make a few jars of refrigerator pickles. That may seem insignificant, but pickles and condiments are expensive. I don't buy salad dressings or marinades (although I do get them free fequently at a "Big Lot's" type store that gives them away with a $10 purchase. I usually make my own, because salad dressings are so easy and cheap to make at home (and there's tons of recipes online).
I also make jerky once a year in my dehydrator. It's a Christmas treat, but it's so much cheaper than store-bought jerky (and 100 times better tasting).
And of course there's freezing. I freeze as much as my little freezer compartment will hold. We're talking about buying a small chest freezer.
08-18-2008, 12:52 PM
A chest freezer was one of the best investments we ever made (we have a BIG one, though!). We now buy a side of beef & a side of pork about once every 18 months. We figured it up once, and if you calculate how much it would cost in the grocery store, we are basically paying as much as we would pay for all the beef steaks. Everything else - roasts, ground beef, stew meat, and the entire side of pork - is essentially free.
08-18-2008, 01:23 PM
I don't know why I did not think to get out my dehydrator! My mom has tons of apples that are falling off the tree and I could fix them right up and save some money. I only buy my meat when it is on sale and wrap it for the freezer in small protions. and I only add it in small amts with our meals.
Pasta is a great value and we tend to eat that with a little olive oil or red sauce.
Another penny saver is I make our own pizza dough (whole grain and very thin) and use fresh veggies and herbs when in season and if not I use peppers I had frozen and just a touch of whatever else I have on hand
I also buy onion in bulk, 50lb bag from locals they last for a long time and I eat a great deal of them
08-26-2008, 02:26 AM
I agree that buying in season and locally is the best deal on produce.
I find that making a lot of things ourselves saves loads! You pay a lot for the little bit of processing, packaging, and advertising.
Dh and I are fairly hardcore DIY-ers though, I'm sure some people think we're nuts. These are the things we do at home to save money and eat better (plus we think it's fun):
Dh roasts our coffee~by roasting it we get amazing Fair Trade Organic coffee for less then half the price.
Dh also home brews~we got the equipment off craigslist for cheap and the ingredients are very inexpensive.
I make our yogurt, bread, tortillas (corn), salad dressings, jams, pickles, granola, other baked goods, kim chi, sprouts etc.
I only buy beans dry. I cook a big batch at a time and then freeze 2 cup increments in baggies.
I use vinegar and baking soda to clean.
I also stock up when there is a really good sale on things we eat a lot of. For example, I just bought a bunch of canned salmon for cheap.
I always buy my spices in bulk. I can buy a jars worth of oregano at my neighborhood co-op for 35-cents. Much cheaper then paying $4 for those tiny bottles.